Francesc Mauri is a well-known ‘weather man’ in the Catalan media, but he has also been driving an electric vehicle for over three years. Francesc is a member of the Advisory Council of the Meteorological Service of Catalonia (Consell Assessor del Servei Meteorològic de Catalunya) and the author of popular science books such as ‘Els núvols, guia de camp de l’atmosfera i Previsió del temps’ (Clouds, a field guide to the atmosphere and weather forecasting) and the ‘Guia de l’Atmosfera’ (Guide to the atmosphere).
How did you originally have the idea of getting an electric vehicle?
It was because of an interview on the Meteomauri programme when a Nissan dealer suggested that I should try one. I had always been very interested in it, and ten minutes after setting off I said: “This is fantastic!” My wife said the same, and she really does not like driving, but she has to do it every day. We immediately said: “There is no comparison between this and the other cars we have had!” We looked at our family’s needs a bit and without any doubt about it we decided to use the Nissan Leaf.
Was it an economic question or an environmental one?
It was both. This vehicle perfectly meets all the requirements for daily use that we have of a vehicle in our house. And obviously we do not have Hollywood-star salaries so money is very important in our family. There are lots of policies to encourage you to get an electric vehicle, with advantages that help you save lots of money, not just on fuel (100 km of range costs 1 euro), but also with free parking in blue and green zones in the city, free road tolls, maintaining the vehicle (no need to change the oil, the filters…)
Have you had any bad experiences in these three years as a user?
I do more than 3,000 km a month and I have only had a slightly difficult situation on one occasion, but it was not a serious problem. I was coming back from Girona with my family and I had a specific charging point in mind. When I got there, the charging point was out of use. We asked for a plug at a petrol station and if we could plug in there (it was that or call a tow truck). After a couple of hours we could continue and arrive. There are days when I come home with just 10-15 km of range left, but I arrive fine. I have the times and charging points well calculated.
In your opinion, is it easy to do the necessary paperwork to formalise the purchase of an EV? Did the dealership itself give you information? Any regional bodies? Did you have any problems finding the information?
The information is there, and the fact you have to register the car to get the electric vehicle card is not a problem. Besides, at the dealership they gave me very good advice. But it is true that perhaps there should be a telephone line or an office where they can guide you on all the paperwork and all the advantages from A to Z.
Have you tried any gas-powered vehicles?
Not yet, and do you know what? I regret having bought our other car with a type of engine that cannot be adapted to be gas-powered. So this is a pending issue in our house. I think it is vital to get to know gas-powered vehicles and expand their use, but it is definitely a type of vehicle that is not as visible as electric ones that you can see charging. And the publicity for this type of vehicle is different and not as visual.
What infrastructure needs do think are missing?
I think the main thing is for people to find out about the advantages of EVs and the policies that are in place to encourage them, but there are still other measures that could make them more popular and so mean there are more users, for example, looking into using some of the bus lanes that are underused in Barcelona so that EVs can use them. Can you imagine what a great advert it would be for encouraging people to use EVs if you are stuck on the Diagonal and you see that in the bus/taxi lane (that is not used very much on this stretch) an EV goes past without having to queue? Something else that I think is a good idea is for shopping centres to have special parking spaces near the door for EVs. The visual and tangible impact for drivers of seeing that an EV can park at the door while you with your petrol or diesel car have to go to level minus 3 in the car park would be very strong and very positive.
Which particular groups do you think could be potential users of electric vehicles?
Groups that have to do long journeys cannot consider it at the moment. We need to cover Catalonia with rapid charging points. Starting now with the Mediterranean Corridor is very good, but I think we should be more ambitious. You can do slow charging at home, but for use of electric vehicles to become widespread depends on there being a good rapid charging network. With regards to groups, there are some local professionals who could use electric vehicles without any doubt, like the local police. I am working on this personally with some councils that I am in touch with to help them overcome their fear. It is just lack of knowledge. There are a lot of people who picture the car from the Flintstones when they think of electric vehicles and that is not true. Electric vehicles have better features in speed and acceleration than a lot of the cars the police in Catalonia currently have. Malaga Council has done it and their experience has been very good.
There are some criticisms of electric vehicles regarding the sources for producing electricity; what is your view of this matter?
The worst thing we can do now is burn fossil fuels. If we take this as a starting point, then anything that is not burning fossils will be better. Nuclear power is a very negative concept but at the moment we need it, and so what we have to do is have a long-term plan for how to be able to generate electricity without needing nuclear power stations. In Spain, like in other European countries, the energy policy is dire, it is erratic, it penalises good practice and it is based on interests that are very short-term and too economic. According to data from the Spanish power network (Red Eléctrica Española) for 2014, 40% of energy came from renewable sources and 20% from nuclear power. For me, the fact that 60% of the electricity that is produced comes from sources that are not polluting with regards to greenhouse gases (even though I am fully aware of the dangers that nuclear power creates) shows that the electric vehicle is the way forward. The price of petrol fluctuates and we cannot rely on predictions by analysts because the current situation shows us that their predictions are often wrong. Furthermore, if batteries with graphite really do become available as it looks like they will and 4 years from now there are batteries that you can charge in a few minutes and that give you a range of over 1,000 km… that would be a worldwide revolution.
A few days from now we will be celebrating the sustainability week in Barcelona, will we see you there?
I will try. If I can, then I will definitely go. I have a family commitment this weekend but during the week I will definitely drop in on this very important event. [:]